Yesterday was the most bizarre day of my life. It included realizing that I have some intensely amazing friends (Mordy & Jeremy) and know some fantastic people. Both of these people were willing to let me stay at their house on literally a moment's notice. The beautiful part of this was that we made plans over IM, of all things (just before I was about to hop on a plane.) Then Jeremy called to offer to pick me up from the airport, although I unfortunately could not acquiesce. I am lucky and just know some truly amazing people.
The interesting part of this story begins once I get on the 1 train. See, I had taken a bus from LaGuardia to Port Authority and then decided to take the 1. Stupidly, I had placed a $50 bill in my translucent Stern ID case (which hangs around my neck.) I am clutching a metal pole for dear life, uncomfortably forcing my duffel bag into my hip when a buff, dirty painter enters the train (with a strong Brooklyn accent.) Here is the conversation we had:
Painter: (looks me up and down and leers pleasantly, a cracked grin on his face) You're not from New York, are you, sweetheart?
Me: Is it that obvious?
Painter: Dorothy, you're not in Kansas anymore. (nods at the $50 which is clearly visible to all) That thing around your neck. Someone would be happy to take that off of you. Put it away.
Me: (probably blushing) Oh, yeah.
Painter: (grinning) You're in Adventureland now.
Me: The Emerald City?
Painter: Hardly. And where's Toto?
This is probably one of the most surreal conversations I have ever had, especially since I had to remain uncomfortably close to the man for the rest of my ride (short, thank God). When I left I smiled at him and called "Thanks for the tip!" and he smiled back.
But it gets better. I later find it necessary to take a taxi. I accomplish this by making a tentative swanlike motion with my arm on a streetcorner (I immediately hailed a cab; isn't that crazy?) This was to be my first time taking a taxi in New York.
I dump my belongings in the trunk, throw myself into the back seat (awkward, now that I think about it. Possibly I should have sat up front...but honestly, it's better this way.)
Cabdriver: Where to?
Me: (gives address)
(we make polite conversation)
Cabdriver: You're not from New York, are you?
Me: (*thinks* Why is everyone able to tell that about me?) No, I'm not. Why?
Cabdriver: Oh, because if you were, you'd be talking on your cell phone by now and cataloguing a whole list of complaints. Besides, you are willing to have a conversation.
Me: So you can actually tell who is and who isn't from New York based on how they behave?
So we get into a long and involved conversation during which he explains that he is originally from Egypt, studied at Cairo University and now is spending a year in New York. His father has a PhD in Psychology; everyone in his family is highly educated. He asks me where I go to school; I say YU; he thinks I said NYU. I realize it is not a good idea for me to correct him (I'm alone in a cab with an Egyptian Arabic man) and let him think that. He asks me whether the tuition is expensive; I say it is. Then I ask him to explain the lifestyle in Egypt and he does. One amusing comment- he says that his friend was trying to take him sightseeing and showed him this "old" building in New York that is 200 years old; he laughed out loud because he lives right near a pyramid that is 5000 years old. We got into whether he/ I would prefer to live in a suburb or in a city. Then I asked him what he would wish for if he had three wishes.
Cabdriver: To find my life partner...in Egypt we have a name for it, it translates to "my other half."
Me: That's beautiful!
Cabdriver: Also, to have a good and successful future and fulfill my dreams. I don't mean to be selfish but it is necessary...
Me: No, for sure. That's a completely legitimate request.
During the course of this conversation, he tells me stories of the people he's met. The law is such that he can't turn down anyone who wants to pay for a ride. So he tells me of some terrifying rides where he just wants to get out of it alive (doesn't want the money.) Driving drug dealers and such, people who are dangerous. So I obviously find that interesting. Then he says something very intriguing about how cabdriving for him is a "social experiment" and that he has learned a lot about people through doing this- he gets to really experience the city this way. He talks about the importance of listening, that it is far more important to listen than to speak.
(That makes at least three people who have talked about listening lately- my friend, my hairstylist and my cabdriver. I think God is trying to tell me something.)
So I get him to talk about politics, just to see what he's like. Oh dear. I wonder what he would have said had he known I was Jewish. He goes on about how Israel is a democracy, but not a complete one and 40% of the citizens (all the Arabic ones) have no rights. And they're the natives! And everyone else immigrated there, and it's not fair! His views are polite, however, and not passionate diatribes (which I appreciate.)
We finally reach my destination and we are ready to disembark. He says, "I want to see you again! I want to give you my phone number. Feel free to call any time you want" and gives me this cheerful smile.
Oh, we have reached a new level in the list of crazy things that happen to me. Now I am being propositioned by my cabdriver.
I smile as well and politely ignore the comment, pretending I haven't heard it.
He continues, "Can I help you with your luggage?" obviously desperate to get into what he thinks is my apartment.
I smile again. "No thank you," I say.
I swear, this stuff only happens to me.
(Probably not. Probably it happens to a lot of people. But it is certainly a fun way to remember my first cabride in New York.)